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Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony / String Quartet

John Adams , International Contemporary Ensemble , St. Lawrence String Quartet Audio CD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Price: $15.67 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
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Product Details

  • Performer: St. Lawrence String Quartet
  • Orchestra: International Contemporary Ensemble
  • Conductor: John Adams
  • Composer: John Adams
  • Audio CD (May 31, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,733 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Son of Chamber Symphony: Movement 1
2. Son of Chamber Symphony: Movement 2
3. Son of Chamber Symphony: Movement 3
4. String Quartet: Movement 1
5. String Quartet: Movement 2

Editorial Reviews

"Son of Chamber Symphony was an exuberant nod to its 1992 predecessor, all cartoon energy and virtuosic colour."-The Independent on Sunday "John Adams' ambitious and alluring new String Quartet's rhythmic punch, sunlit color and sensual melodic-harmonic contours suggested new American music with a French accent."-Detroit Free Press John Adams' Son of Chamber Symphony (2007) is performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), led by the composer, and Adams' String Quartet (2008) is performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the ensemble for which the piece was written. This is the first recording of both works. "As you might imagine, Son of Chamber Symphony is closely related to Chamber Symphony," Adams recently explained in an interview for the London Sinfonietta. "The two are very similar in instrumentation: 15 players-a large chamber group, or a very small orchestra-which means everybody gets to be a soloist in one way or another. It gave me an opportunity to do the kind of challenging virtuoso writing that I would never attempt with a large orchestra. The new chamber symphony also has the same buoyant quality [as the original]." The piece was co-commissioned by the San Francisco Ballet for a new work by choreographer Mark Morris, entitled Joyride, which premiered in 2008. String Quartet is Adams' second full-sized work for that combination of instruments. His first, 1994's John's Book of Alleged Dances (Nonesuch, 1998), is a set of 11 short pieces written for Kronos Quartet. Hearing the St. Lawrence String Quartet perform that work inspired Adams to compose String Quartet for them, which led to its world premiere at The Juilliard School in 2009. Since then, the group has performed the work more than 50 times throughout North America, Europe, and New Zealand, including a critically acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall in March 2011. The Philadelphia Inquirer said of one of those concerts, "The piece is a knockout. Thanks to the St. Lawrence telepathic sense of ensemble, so was the performance." With a flexible roster of 33 leading instrumentalists performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time and pursuing groundbreaking strategies for audience engagement. Since its founding in 2001, ICE has premiered more than 500 compositions, the bulk of them by emerging composers, in venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Center and Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art to galleries, bars, clubs, and schools around the world. Established in 1989, the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has developed a reputation as a world-class chamber ensemble. The quartet performs more than 120 concerts annually worldwide and calls Stanford University, where the group is ensemble-in-residence, home. The SLSQ is committed to the great, established quartet literature and also champions new works by composers like John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, Eziquiel Vinao, and Jonathan Berger. The quartet comprises founding members Lesley Robertson (viola) and Geoff Nuttall (violin); cellist Christopher Costanza, who joined the group in 2003; and violinist Scott St. John, who joined in 2006.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great works June 7, 2011
Format:Audio CD
The two works presented here are among John Adams's newest chamber compositions. They're both a little bit on the "derivative" side -- lots of references to his earlier works without breaking a ton of new ground. They're both immensely enjoyable and a pleasure to listen to, even if they're not the most innovative works.

Structurally, "Son of Chamber Symphony" has a lot of predecessors in Adams's output -- the first Chamber Symphony, "Harmonium", "Harmonielehre", "Gnarly Buttons", "My Father Knew Charles Ives", "Road Movies", "Naive and Sentimental Music", "Century Rolls", etc. I read somewhere that Adams was once asked when he would finally write something that wasn't in a three movement fast-slow-fast form. That criticism is perhaps most strongly appropriate here.

Each of the movement's character has strong hints of one or more of the works above, and then some. The first movement has a very "Adamsian" type of buildup to open it, with a basic rhythm and a increasingly complex layering of rhythm and sound entering. It picks up where the first "Chamber Symphony" left off -- a few goofy riffs, prepared pianos making some nutty sounds, and a few hyperactive violinists later in the movement. The second movement reminds me of The Lake from "Ives" -- a beautiful melody with a nostalgic element to it -- but it gets twisted as the time goes by. The third movement has the most hints of throwbacks -- the pounding minor thirds clearly recall Nixon in China, there's a blatant quote of the final movement of "Harmonielehre". It ends with some trash can lids being used as cymbals and a few inspired percussive whispers.

I don't know why Adams finds the form of the chamber symphony to be full of slapstick and farce.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like Father Like Son June 14, 2011
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Of that generation who challenged authority and convention while swimming in popular culture, John Adams has continually presented us compositions of complex development, orchestral color, propulsion, subversive wit, accessibility, joy and solemnity, spirituality and fun. Sometimes his works are emotional, other times intellectual, often both. Like its predecessor, Son of Chamber Symphony has a jazzy urgency, a bevy of lyrical passages, and danceable jagged rhythms. The third movement is punctuated throughout by bass drum and closes with a "delicately pulsing trash can lid", which fits better than the customary sound of cymbals. Adams is happy to parody himself, too, and we hear touches of Harmonielehre (his breakthrough piece). Adams tells us that this work was choreographed by Mark Morris (whose ballets I always attend in Berkeley), and I very much look forward someday to seeing how it was adapted. The abstraction of Adam's cheerful 24-minute symphony is itself dazzling. Once again forceful movement and melody is at the core in the second offering, a string quartet, oddly (for Adams) entited "String Quartet". Such chamber pieces are often introspective studies of form, and Adams divides this work into two main parts but with four subsections in the first. The variety and continual changes does not entirely work for me in fashioning a cohesive whole, especially in mood. However interesting, it ultimately seems more an exercise in virtuosity. The St. Lawrence String Quartet, for whom the work was composed and who find a home in Haydn and late, serious Beethoven, perform this modern work admirably. Adams himself leads an international ensemble for the chamber symphony.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inventive chamber music June 3, 2011
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
John Adams is a very talented composer whose works are not formulaic. For example, his short opera, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, uses Motown, and one of the songs, "I Was Struck by the Rock I Was Standing On" is rock music; any rock group would be proud to have written it. Son of Chamber Symphony, whose title plays with the names of so many B movie sequels, like Son of Frankenstein and Daughter of Dracula, is a very inventive work that is Adams' homage to Schoenberg's chamber symphonies, especially the first one. However, Adams piece does not present a mere copy of Schoenberg's work; instead, Adams incorporates minimalism, Stravinsky's neo-classicism and some jazz. Adams' earlier work Harmonielehre is similar; Adams adds minimalism, dazzling orchestration, his own take on Parsifal in the second movement and a humorous tribute to his daughter and Meister Eckhart, a medieval mystic, in the third movement. The second piece on this disc, String Quartet, is more compact but well written like the chamber symphony. Of course, Adams does not create just another string quartet; for example, in the last movement he uses something like a Morse code signal instead of a recurring theme which would be more typical in a traditional rondo.
I always look forward to a new work from Adams. He does not just toss off another piece, like too many creative artists of all types do, and that includes writers and painters also. I hope others will enjoy his music as much as I do.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WORTH BUYING FOR THE STRING QUARTET August 13, 2011
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I bought this for the string quartet, which I was not able to attend when the St. Lawrence performed it live. It's a difficult piece, I might not even 'like' it, but I keep going back to it. The second movement is pure Janacek. Who would have thought that from Adams?

I saw the Son Of conducted by Adams. It's a fun piece when you hear it live, but on record it sounds inconsaquential.
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